FULL ASSURANCE Fifth Sunday of Easter
Revelations 21:1-7 LSB Series C
May 19, 2019
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. (ESV)
I was asked, recently, to review a couple of youtube Bible study videos addressing the issue of “Full Assurance.” The study leader wanted his audience to understand how one could have full assurance of salvation. To his credit, his answer to the question was Jesus Christ. Because Christ had died and been raised from the grave, salvation was an accomplished fact. What he failed to understand, however, was that this assurance did not have to wait until Good Friday and Easter Sunday were accomplished. That assurance was held by Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all who clung to the promise God made.
What of the vision John records in the text before us? Can we be certain that this promise will come to pass? Can we be certain that what John saw will truly be our future? Do we have to wait and see what happens when the Last Day finally comes? Indeed, the Holy Spirit gave John this vision, and he recorded it by Christ’s command, so that you, I, and every Christian of this creation can know for certain that our future is secure. God gives to us today the full assurance of our eternal future in the kingdom of Christ.
That assurance is given to us in Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, who speaks to us and says, “It is done!”
I. ISN’T SOMETHING MORE NEEDED?
That question often pops into our mind. God’s Old Testament people had many regulations to follow in order to be God’s people. Even the New Testament is filled with all kinds of exhortations to live in a certain way and avoid things that are contrary to the will of God. In today’s Collect we prayed, “Grant that we may love what You commanded...” What about the words of our Lord in the Verse for today:
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him”?
Don’t we have to love him and keep his word? Don’t we have to repent of our sins in order to be assured that what John witnessed and recorded is truly for us? Some say we must ask Jesus into our heart, or pray the sinner’s prayer, or make a commitment to Jesus, or be obedient to him. Surely we must have to do something to win that assurance of our eternal future!
Jesus’ word to us is “It is done!” He didn’t say, “It’s almost done,” or “It’s nearly done,” or “It will be done.” He simply says, “It is done!” Like the word Jesus spoke from the cross—“It is finished” (Jn 19:30)—everything has been accomplished. Our faith rests, not on something we might, or should, or could, or must do, but upon all that Jesus did in perfect obedience to his Father, and all that Jesus suffered to rescue us from our sinfulness. “It is done” is Christ’s word of assurance that everything that needed to be accomplished for our eternal security has been fulfilled in him who lived, died, rose, and ascended into glory. When Scripture tells us to cling to Christ, it isn’t a command we must fulfill; it’s an invitation to rely upon the one who did it all for our salvation.
II. BUT WHAT IF I FAIL OR FALL INTO SIN?
You can be certain that you will! Remember what we spoke at the outset of today’s service:
“I confess to God Almighty, before the whole company of heaven and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned in thought, word, and deed by my fault, by my own fault, by my own most grievous fault;”
There was no “maybe” in that confession. We didn’t say those words because we “might” have fallen into some kind of sin. We made this confession because we know what we are: “poor, miserable sinners” who deserve nothing but God’s wrath and eternal judgment. Sin is our constant companion in life in this world. We fall into idolatry when our offerings consist of what’s left in our wallet. We abuse his name in conversations with friends or neighbors. We keep the Sabbath when it’s convenient. We dishonor the authorities God places in our lives rather than pray for his blessing upon them. We wish evil upon those who don’t treat us as we think we deserve. We indulge in humor that dishonors our spouse. We fail to help our neighbor keep what is his. We defame our neighbor’s reputation with the latest story we’ve heard. We grow discontented with what God has given us. Like King David we know we were brought forth iniquity and in sin did our mother conceive us. (Ps 51:5). Does not our sin cast doubt upon this future glory John describes?
Once again, “It is done” is Jesus’ word to us. What’s done is our deliverance from the power of sin. Satan cannot condemn those who have been redeemed. The psalmist wrote:
“The Lord has made known his salvation;
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.” (98:2).
The righteousness of God is revealed in the forgiveness he has extended to you and me in Christ. What Christ accomplished at the cross was redemption not only from our sins of the past, but also the sins that continue to rise up in our lives. What Christ accomplished at the cross the Father affirmed in raising him from the grave. It is for this reason that we “sing to the Lord a new song” (Ps 98:1). This is the marvelous thing he has accomplished for us. “It is done” means that our sin cannot separate us from Christ, from God’s love for us, from the eternal joy that John records for us to see. We come to the throne of God confessing our sins confident of his declaration, “It is done!”
III. BUT WHAT IF OUR FAITH FALTERS?
Just as surely as sin invades our lives, so also our faith waxes and wanes. One day the sun is shining and we are confident of God’s promises and courageous in our living. The next day the clouds descend and we find ourselves uncertain and timid. Peter’s faith grew weak when he saw the wind and waves, and began to sink into the sea. The whole lot of Jesus’ disciples fled in fear in Gethsemane from the one whom they had boldly confessed in the upper room. We sing boldly, “Jesus Christ is ris’n today” in a joyous Easter sunrise service. Then we fret and worry when weather keeps us out of our fields, or calves fail to survive, or prices on the grain market plummet. While sin rises up in our lives, our faith grows weak and withers. Like the father of the possessed son, we must cry out,
“I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk 4:24),
Jesus answers that plea with his righteous declaration: “It is done!” Our assurance does not depend upon the strength of our faith, but the strength of our Savior. Our confidence does not rest upon our faithfulness to Christ, but upon his faithfulness to his promise. His declaration—“It is done”—is our assurance that what we see through the eyes of the apostle John, is the future Christ himself has won and prepared for us. Though our faith falters again and again, Christ’s faithfulness is our stay. His death has won our forgiveness. His resurrection assures our resurrection. His ascension to the right hand of the Father guarantees our place in his everlasting kingdom. When we find our faith weak and failing, the Spirit bids us to turn to Christ’s Word and the Sacraments of God’s grace. There our faith is nourished. There our hope is assured. There we are strengthened and our confidence and joy restored.
The story is told of an elderly Scottish woman being visited by a young minister. Throughout their conversation, the woman held fact to her firm assurance of her safety in Christ. “But just suppose,” said the young minister, “that after all, God should let you sink into hell?” “He would lose more than I would,” came the confident reply. “I would only lose my soul,” she said, “but he would lose his good name!”
Here is our full assurance that what John describes in our text is already ours. “It is done,” says our Lord, and there is nothing we need add to Christ’s work. “It is done,” he says, and no sin that infects our lives can alter that glorious truth. “It is done,” says Christ, and not even the weakness of our faith can wrench us away from what he has promised.
“It is done!” Amen.